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Dec. 3, 2022

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La Center turns 1A football clash into statement win over Connell

Wildcats run over Connell 49-7 behind balanced offense, opportunistic defense and special teams

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
5 Photos
La Center's Davari Grauer stiff arms a Connell player on the second-half kickoff on Saturday in La Center. Grauer returned the kickoff for a touchdown to put the Wildcats ahead 42-0.
La Center's Davari Grauer stiff arms a Connell player on the second-half kickoff on Saturday in La Center. Grauer returned the kickoff for a touchdown to put the Wildcats ahead 42-0. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

LA CENTER — As a playoff hopeful that aspires to be going deep in the postseason come November, La Center’s wire-to-wire win over Connell on Saturday is a step toward reaching that goal.

The Class 1A Wildcats, who have played two 2A teams, Hockinson and Woodland, as well as 2B Kalama, considered Saturday an early-season measuring stick against the 1A Eagles, a dangerous team despite their winless start.

In relation to the previous three weeks, La Center’s 49-7 win over Connell at home, players and coaches agree, was the Wildcats’ most complete effort of the season so far.

“This game was a big statement game to the whole entire state,” said Clayton Muffett, a senior offensive and defensive lineman. “I think our team stepped up and made sure that we made a statement.”

Running the football is a key part of the Wildcats’ identity, and they turned to it early with Jalen Ward and Lane Roberts gaining all 55 yards on the ground of the team’s opening drive, ending in a Roberts 19-yard touchdown.

But perhaps the most promising sign for the La Center (3-1) offense was seeing its passing game come to life.

Already with a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Tru Feldman found wide-open receiver Levi Giles for a 22-yard touchdown pass.

The next two drives included a pair of downfield shots to receiver Davari Grauer. The first, a 42-yard gain, set up Ward’s 1-yard touchdown run. The second, a 65-yard Grauer touchdown, gave a La Center a 35-0 lead going into halftime.

“We can be really dangerous,” said Muffett, who also scored a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. “I had a talk with our quarterback (Tru Feldman) before the game about the offensive line, we’re going to give you time this game. I think we improved a lot on that and we picked up blitzes really well. … I think our offensive line really proved — we walked the talk this game.”

Feldman finished an efficient 9-of-11 with 204 passing yards, the majority going to Grauer (107 receiving yards) and Giles (47 receiving yards).

“Our passing game has definitely improved, we’ve been working on it a lot for the past few weeks after (the loss against) Hockinson,” Grauer said. “We didn’t do that well in the passing game … so were definitely running that out. Tru is throwing some incredible balls recently.”

It wasn’t just the Wildcats’ offense putting up points; their defense and special teams also accounted for one touchdown each.

After Connell (0-4) drove inside the La Center 10-yard line in the opening quarter, sophomore Parker McKinney stepped in front of a pass thrown by Eagles quarterback Carson Lloyd and took the interception 96 yards to the house. McKinney had two interceptions in the game.

Then, when Grauer received the second-half kickoff, a couple key blocks gave the senior speedster an opening and he did the rest with his legs, outrunning Connell down the sideline for a touchdown. La Center’s 42-0 lead put a running clock in effect for the rest of the game.

“I think it was Andre (Vazquez) and Wyatt (Eiesland), they did a perfect kick-out block on the first guy on the outside,” Grauer said. “I saw the second (defender) coming and I just hit the sideline. The kicker was there and he didn’t have a good enough angle, so I took advantage of that. It was just beautiful all around from our team.”

Saturday’s game gave the Wildcats plenty to be proud of, but La Center coach John Lambert knows the team still has plenty it can improve on. Upcoming practices and film sessions won’t be any different, especially with a short week to prepare for Trico League opponent King’s Way Christian on Thursday.

“We‘ve been working to improve every week and I think we’ve gotten better every week,” Lambert said.

“There’s still things we need to clean up. But it was great, the kids came out with a lot of energy. We wanted to force our will on (Connell) and get after it on offense and defense. I thought the kids executed really well.”

LA CENTER 49, CONNELL 7

Connell 0 0 0 7—7

La Center 14 21 14 0—49

First quarter

LC — Lane Roberts 19 run (Ben Rembisz kick)

LC — Parker McKinney 96 interception return (Rembisz kick)

Second quarter

LC — Levi Giles 22 pass from Tru Feldman (Rembisz kick)

LC — Jalen Ward 1 run (Rembisz kick)

LC — Davari Grauer 65 pass from Feldman (Rembisz kick)

Third quarter

LC — Grauer 80 kickoff return (Rembisz kick)

LC — Clayton Muffett 1 run (Rembisz kick)

Fourth quarter

C — Jackson Forsyth 2 run (Lukas Mandler kick)

Individual statistics

RUSHING — Connell: Forsyth 15-55, Mckay Barberich 7-7, Kellen Riner 4-14, Carson Lloyd 3-(minus 10). La Center: Ward 10-60, Roberts 4-38, Isaac Chromey 4-31, Feldman 4-8, Austin Nixon 1-20, Giles 1-8, Muffett 1-1, Team 2-(minus 5).

PASSING — Connell: Lloyd 7-14-2-91. La Center: Feldman 9-11-0-204.

RECEIVING — Connell: Riner 3-59, Forsyth 1-17, Jacob Davis 1-10, Cade Clyde 1-4, Landen Choi 1-1. La Center: Giles 3-47, Grauer 2-107, Houston Coyle 2-22, Tyler Normine 1-8.

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